No. 15 Miami pulled out its fourth straight win on Saturday, while North Carolina put an end to a three-game slide.
Both teams face a quick turnaround before they meet Monday night in Atlantic Coast Conference action in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Hurricanes (20-5, 11-4 ACC) played Saturday night at home and had their hands full, outlasting Louisville 93-85. Louisville star El Ellis scored a career-high 33 points to keep his team hanging around, but Miami got 22 points from Nijel Pack and 21 apiece from Isaiah Wong and Norchad Omier as it scored 51 points in the second half to pull away.
Pack scored 14 of his points in the second half on 5-of-7 shooting, including a crucial 3-pointer that restored Miami to a double-digit advantage with 2:44 to play.
“He’s a great shooter,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “And again, he had kind of a subpar (game) offensively against Duke. So he’s probably, ‘Hey, I’ve got to be ready because hopefully I’ll get some really good looks.'”
Pack had just five points in the 81-59 rout of Duke on Feb. 6. At 12.6 per game, he’s one of four Hurricanes scoring in double figures. Wong averages 16.2 and a team-high 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals, Jordan Miller averages 14.7 points per game and Omier adds 14.1 points and a team-best 10.0 rebounds.
Larranaga said the team will fly to North Carolina on Sunday afternoon and take the time to rest their bodies.
“It’s all about the mental preparation, because the physical really needs to be rest and recover from tonight’s game,” Larranaga said. “We’ll watch some tape, watch Carolina. Our guys are familiar with them.”
While there’s familiarity among ACC opponents, this will be Miami’s first and only meeting of the season with the Tar Heels, who had a five-game win streak in the all-time series snapped last season with an 85-57 drubbing at Miami.
North Carolina (16-9, 8-6) earned its first win since Jan. 24 by trouncing Clemson 91-71 Saturday at home.
The Tar Heels won by tying a season high with 15 3-pointers, with Caleb Love’s 6-for-9 performance leading the way and R.J. Davis finishing 4-for-10.
Coach Hubert Davis was hopeful it was a sign of things to come, as the 2022 national runner-up and preseason No. 1 team has endured a difficult campaign.
“I was emotional during the game and after the game because they were playing with a sense of joyfulness,” the coach said. “And you could just see it in the way that they were playing. It wasn’t just when personally they made their play, it was when their teammates made a play.
“It’d be nice if we could bottle it up, but I’m just very thankful. I told them to enjoy today. It was fun to have a front-row seat to see them do that. Tomorrow we’ll start our preparation on getting ready for a really, really good Miami team.”
Armando Bacot had 19 points and 11 rebounds for North Carolina and continues to lead the team in both categories (17.6 points, 11.3 rebounds per game). Love, who finished with a game-high 23 points, averages 16.8 per game and R.J. Davis scores 15.8.
–Field Level Media